All Power to the Imagination (API) has been a hallmark of New College since its inception in spring of 2008. The event is a weekend-long conference that takes place every year at the school in early April and offers the opportunity to connect students to people, movements and ideas outside of the bubble. API attracts leftist radical theorists, educators and community organizers from across the United States.
The founding students, James Birmingham (’06), Kotu Bajaj (’06) and Jaqueline Wang (’06), were inspired by The National Conference for Organized Resistance (NCOR), a huge event at American University in Washington D.C. that ran annually from 1998- 2008.
They approached Sarah Hernandez and created a tutorial called Conference Organization and planned for a conference that would provide an opportunity for education on leftist theory and networking across the South.
The original theme for the first couple years of API was bridging the gap between radical theory and practice. Since then it has incorporated broader anti-capitalist, leftist and community organizing themes.
“All Power to the Imagination is not an anarchist conference,” Birmingham said. “It tends to be anarchist themed but students who are interested in combatting heteronormativity, or being involved with Earth justice, no matter what your personal political orientation is there is probably something at API that would peak your interest.”
This year’s topics included a radical perspective on global climate change, geoengineering and Native American solidarity and how to become an effective ally for native communities. Current students had a panel discussion on injustices that occur in Sarasota including food deserts.
“Let’s talk about some fundamental assumptions that operate in our mainstream society,” Pavlos Stavropoulos, a presenter at this year’s All Power to the Imagination Conference (API), said. “I will argue that one of the purposes of public education is to teach you to obey authority, to teach you to show up at the time you are told to. These things are done so automatically, you kind of assume after a while it is normal. And it is normal. It’s just not the only normal that has ever existed and not necessarily the normal that we want.”
Stavropoulos spoke of how educational experiences should include the student feeling empowered, validated and heard. He spoke of alternatives to the current system that would improve student education and community engagement in politics.
Turnout for API fluctuates from year to year. “Post Occupy, conferences like this are being attended less by people outside of those communities,” Birmingham said. “Because I think there’s a refocus on localism across the left. People are organizing in their own communities and not doing the kind of conference and summit hopping that was happening in the late 90s and early 2000s.”
“A conference doesn’t have to be big to be good,” Birmingham added. “I think the important thing is that people create lasting relationships, broaden their networks and are able to share knowledge and skills in a space that they maybe would not have met that person otherwise. Come [to API] have a fruitful argument in a safe space and engage with someone that you maybe don’t agree with, it can be great!”